There is no doubt that things felt like they changed almost overnight in March 2020!
(Haven’t read my last post? Check it out here!)
In my second (and solo) holiday week in Costa Rica, pandemic tensions around the world grew exponentially and all this Canadian traveller wanted to do was get home.
I had moved to a sweet Airbnb slightly further down the west coast in the town of Coco, close to the beach and with a pool. The all-inclusive resort we had been staying in the week before had to shut down the day after we left which meant we were lucky enough to enjoy it and go on our way!
Even though I missed my family, I was definitely happy to be in a warm country with very few covid cases (and drinkable tap water!) and with many French-Canadian snowbirds as my neighbours, I felt like I had honorary uncles and aunts that I saw daily in the pool. Many of them had to make plans to cut their winter escape short to get safely back to Canada before the world shut down, which felt quite inevitable.
I spent a few hours every morning in the pool, and went to the beach in the afternoons, but as you can imagine I was a little tied to the internet and connecting with people back home.
Throughout week I kept in touch with my amazing travel agent and friend Heidi, and felt that keeping myself informed & up to speed on any news was helpful to me as a planner/worrier.
By Wednesday night there were no more incoming flights into Costa Rica, and my direct flight home to Calgary was confirmed as the last scheduled flight WestJet would fly before any necessary but limited repatriation flights. One of my neighbours -a pilot with WestJet named Bruce- assured me not to worry and that we indeed would head home on Sunday (and no later), which was comforting.
I still loved the nightly pastel gradient of the sunsets melting down behind the horizon, and got some more sun time and ocean swims in before the inevitable long winter that awaited me back home. I also practiced a bit of French with my fellow Canadians as we took turns on the floaties around the pool, and thumbed through books left behind by other guests on the bookshelves in my airbnb.
The talk around the pool centred on the news that all the public beaches and pools in Costa Rica would be closed to the public by the end of the weekend, and all national parks would close as well on the Monday morning. It’s hard to imagine natural spaces like the coastline and forests being ‘closed’, and truly, those places were the reason to go to Costa Rica in the first place so it felt quite apropos to be heading out!
On the last morning I was in Coco I spent the morning in the pool and then went to the to the beach one last time. By the time I got back to the property, the pool had been cordoned off with “caution” tape wrapped around the surrounding trees.
Uber is popular in parts of Costa Rica and I was lucky to get a ride from Jonathan (if you are ever in the Liberia or Playa Hermosa or Coco areas let me know and I can connect you with him)! He drove me into Liberia the afternoon before my flight home and brought me to the airport when it opened the next morning so I could be early to check in (and I was third in line).
I created a care package of snacks for the WestJet flight crew as I was sure they had all sorts of stress at the time and would likely have grumpy travellers ending vacations early and not thrilled to be on a plane that day. I was just so grateful for them to be getting us home safely I could have hugged and kissed each one of them. But you know, covid. 🙄
I handed the team the gift bag full of cheese cracker sandwiches, trail mix, chocolates, cheesestrings, and mints. They were all delighted, and each flight attendant came to thank me personally during the flight, with one of them asking “are you one of us?” and another “are your parents pilots?”. It was fun to make them so happy with such a little thing, and I will be sure to keep doing that in the future.
(At some point during the flight a Kit Kat bar was surreptitiously slid onto my tray table and the flight attendant practically winked as she walked away like we were part of an exclusive club, so that turned out to be an added bonus.)
It was nice to brighten their day, and there were definitely some frustrated folks on that flight. With all the extra baggage of bonus snowbirds on a very full plane, they actually had to de-fuel the plane in order to be able to take off, and therefore we had an additional stop in Denver on the way home to refuel.
I’m not going to lie, even this adventurer breathed a sigh of relief when they announced we were descending into Calgary, and I was one of those people who enthusiastically and sincerely (or obnoxiously, depending on how you see it) who applauded when we landed.
A comfortable (masked) Uber ride home, and then I spent the next two weeks in isolation at my apartment. To keep busy, you name it: I did it- from finessing my sourdough bread skills to trying out online workouts to zoom calls with friends to having socially distanced balcony visits with my family; it was a strange time. I couldn’t have been happier to be home in Canada, but let me tell you, quarantining is a different adventure altogether!